Lightning round with Kate Lyons

Photo by Luigi Ciuffetelli

Kate Lyons, the president and CEO of Lyons Cos., agreed to answer a few quick questions at the end of our interview.

What’s the question you wish more people would ask themselves? Is this what I really want to be doing?

Favorite place in Delaware? Henlopen Acres. That’s where our beach house is. It’s a tiny little town, it’s beautiful. It’s unlike any beach community anywhere. It’s so special.

What’s your morning ritual, first 15 to 60 minutes?

Easy. I check emails before I get out of bed. Then I make myself a lovely cup of coffee with a lot of half and half all frothed up and I sit outside my front doorstep and watch the sunrise. Even in the cold weather I love sitting out front. Then I feed my dog and that’s a good 15 minutes right there.

Favorite or best $100-or-less purchase?

That would be the Old Bay bagels at Surf Bagel. They have two locations and when you’re in Lewes or Rehoboth you’ve got to buy those. They are so good.

Most gifted or recommended book?

Sadly, right now, they are all grief books. “The Four Agreements” is an excellent book to temper thinking in the business world and life in general. I think “A Gift from the Sea” by Anne Morrow Lindbergh is a beautiful book.

What did you learn from your favorite failure?

During the second semester of my senior year of college (at Hollins University in Roanoke, Virginia) for some stupid reason I decided to take Calculus for Business as an elective and I failed it. I had to pick up the phone and call my father and tell him I wasn’t going to graduate on time. I was so humiliated. I kept getting calls from classmates and administrators asking me to please come back and walk with the class. You won’t get your diploma. They won’t call your name. But we want you to walk with us. And my family — all eight of us — decided to get in the car and go to graduation. My parents could have been livid, but they handled it the way they handled all crises, which was stay calm. I went and I walked with my class. Is there a more powerful demonstration of a family having your back? Number one. I realized I meant something to all those other people. And I also realized how much my education at Hollins meant to me. It was so much more than books

Best piece of advice you ever got?

From my mother: Be yourself.

Superpower?

My family.

Kryptonite?

Public speaking. But I am really good one on one. And I’m good in small groups. I’m good at leading a meeting. I’m good at all that stuff. Part of it is fear. And also I can’t get the thoughts to come together.

Greatest lessons from your parents?

Oh, there’s so many. I could write a book on all the things they taught us. My mom is amazing and sort of the unsung hero. I was telling one of my sisters, we always give dad so much credit but if you think about it, dad might have been sailing the ship, but mom had the rudder.

• Be a leader, not a follower was the No. 1. My poor dad ended up with six leaders.
• No. 2 was be a team.
• Sit in the front pew.
• Nothing good happens after midnight.
• Always keep a blue blazer in the trunk.
• It’s only a problem if you don’t have a solution.

What’s your first rule of parenting?

Trust. I described it to my boys when they were little. Somebody had lied to me about something, something not terribly important. I took a plate and I said, “You see this plate?” “This is trust.” I broke it on the table. I said, “We can glue this plate back together again, but it’s never going
to be the same.” It was pretty graphic.

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